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Friday, February 13, 2009anathema [taken from PEEPS]
Okay, let's clear up some myths about vampires.

First of all, you won't see me use the V-word much. In the Night Watch, we prefer the term parasite-positive, or peeps, for short.

The main thing to remember is that there's no magic involved. No flying. Humans son't have hollow bones or wings - the disease doesnt change that. No transforming into bats or rats either. It's impossible to turn into something much smaller than yourself - where would the extra mass go?


On the other hand, I can see how people in centuries past got confused. Hordes of rats, and sometimes bats, accompany peeps. They get infected from feasting on peep leftovers. Rodents make good "reservoirs", which means they're like storage containers for the disease. Rats give the parasite a place to hide in case the peep can hunted down.

Infected rats are devoted to their peeps, tracking them by smell. The rat brood also serves as a handy food source for the peep when there aren't humans around to hunt. (Icky, i know. But that's nature for you.)

Back to the myths:
Parasite-positives do appear in mirrors. I mean, get real; How would the mirror know what was behind the peep?

But this legend also has a basis in fact. As the parasite takes control, peeps begin to despise the sight of their own reflections. They smash all their mirrors. But if they're so beautiful, why do they hate their own faces?


Well, it's all about the anathema.

The most famous example of disease mind control is rabies. When a dog becomes rabid, it has an uncontrollable urge to bite anything that moves: squirrels, other dogs, you. This is how rabies reproduces; biting spreads the virus from host to host.

A long time ago, the parasite was probably like rabies. When people get infected, they had an overpowering urge to bite other humans. So they bit them. Success!

But eventually human beings got organized in ways that dogs and squirrels can't. We invented posses and lynch mobs, made up laws, and appointed law enforcers. As a result, the biting maniacs among us tend to have fairly short careers. The only peeps who survived were the ones who ran away and hid, sneaking back at night to feed their mania.

The parasite followed this survival strategy to the extreme. It evolved over the generations to transform the minds of its victims, finding a chemical switch among the pathways of the human brain. When that switch is thrown, we despice everything we once loved. Peeps cower when confronted with their old obsessions, despicse their loved ones, and flee form any signifier of home.

Love is easy to switch to hatred, it turns out. The term for this is the anathema effect.

The anathema effect forced peeps from their medieval villages and out into wild, where they were safe from lynch mobs. And it spread the disease geographically. Peeps moved to the next valley over, then the next crountry, pushed farther and farther by their hatred of everything familiar.

As the cities grew, with more police and bigger lynch mobs, peeps had to adopt new strategies to stay hidden. They learned to love the night and see in the dark, until the sun itself became anathema to them.

But come on: They don't burst into flames in daylight.They just really, really hate it.

They anathema effect also created some familiar vampire legends. If you grew up in Europe in the MIddle Ages, chances were you were a Christian. You went to Church at least twice a week, prayed three times a day, and had a crucifix hanging in every room. You made the sign of the cross everytime you ate food or wished for good luck. So it's not surprising that most peeps back then had major cruciphobia - they could actually be repelled by the sight of a cross, just like in the movies.

In the Middle Ages, the crucifix was the big anathema: Elvis and Manhattan and yout boyfriend all rolled in one.

Thing were so much simpler back then.

These days, we hunters have to do our homework before we go after a peep. What were their favourite foods? What music did they like? What movie stars did they have crushes on? Sure, we still find a few cases of cruciphobia, especially down in the Bible Belt, but you're much more likely to stop peeps with an iPod full of their favourite tunes. (With geeky peeps, I've heard, the Apple logo alone does the trick.)

That's why new peep hunters like me start with people they used to know, so we don't have to guess what their anathemas are. Hunting the people who once loved us is as esy as it gets. Our own faces work as a reminder of their former lives. We are the anathemas.

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